Cummings Reacts to Weah’s SONA -Says Country On The Decline Under President

MONROVIA – After days of waiting to get his official reaction to President George Manneh Weah’s state of the Nation address, the Political leader and Standard Bearer of the Alternative National Congress (ANC), yesterday, Monday, January 31, 2022 took time to dissect the address, stating that contrary to the assertion by Mr. Weah that the country was peaceful and strong with a stable and growing economy, the country has actually being on the decline since the President’s ascendency in 2018.

Addressing a live media conference at the National Headquarters of the ANC, Mr. Cummings said the State of the Republic Address is an important accountability and governance mechanism which should be undertaken truthfully but Mr. Weah did not live up to its bidding and decided to assure the citizens on situations that do not exist.

“Since President Weah came to power, Liberia’s net economic growth is ZERO. The economy is still sluggish, corruption is rampant. After promising to create one million jobs, unemployment remains above 80%, youth unemployment is higher than in 2017, and the exchange rate is high with prices for every single commodity – from food to gas to dokafleh – higher today than when President Weah came to power”, Mr. Cummings said.

Mr. Cummings faulted the President’s sincerity to the citizens and said his description of the state of the Liberian economy and the Republic is not only patently false, it is insensitive, offensive and disconnected representing an alternative reality to the worsening hardships and deteriorating plight many Liberians are living through daily. “The President has failed, and is now hoping to deceive Liberians with even more promises. It has been reported that out of the 169 promises the President has made, he has only kept 11,   which is a score of 7%. Obviously, President Weah is good at making promises, and very bad at fulfilling promises”, Mr. Cummings stated.

Continuing with dissecting the address, Mr. Cummings said “My fellow citizens: Our state is basically leaderless. To put it in COVID-19 terms, President Weah is in self-imposed quarantine. This likely explains why he would ridiculously declare our crime-infested streets, beaches and urban communities to be “peaceful and strong”, and say to Liberians who are suffering through this every day that everything is alright. In rural communities, life is just as it has always been, if not worse, especially for women and children, with many dying in childbirths and from preventable and treatable illnesses, while still too many Liberian babies are dying before they reach their 5th birthdays. We are not in a military battle, and the President may be thinking that the absence of war automatically means that Liberia is at peace”.

The businessman turned politician did not also spare the President any credence with respect to the agriculture sector, stating that despite Liberia having one of the most fertile lands in Africa, the    government has failed to make any sustainable gains and substantial investment in agriculture as according to him the President has budgeted zero dollar for the agriculture fund. He said that the government has turned the sector over to non-governmental organizations and donor projects such that the country is yet to see economic growth attributed to the infusion of millions of dollars in the sector and stressed that even the Office of the President has more money in the budget than the entire Ministry of Agriculture.

The former Coca Cola top executive painted a gloomy picture of the economy where he stated that it is the slowest growing in the Mano River Union region yet the government continues its wasteful spending which according to him can be seen from its decision to spend more money on buying and servicing new cars for lawmakers than it will spend on all community colleges, all training institutions, the Monrovia Consolidated School System (MCSS), JFK, and Jackson F. Doe Hospital.

He also discounted the government’s ability to manage the economy from the way it increase the debt profile of the country taking from $1.039 in 2018 to $1.690 currently , meaning that in 4 years, the government borrowed $600m thereby passing on the burden to the future for the children ahead to suffer it.

Besides the poor handling of the economy according to Mr. Cummings, he also accused the President of woefully failing to address the level of insecurity and corruption in the country “My fellow Liberians: The Weah-led government has not just failed to manage the economy, they have also failed with issues of national security, service delivery, fighting corruption, and consolidating our democracy. Many of you do not need me to tell you that Liberia’s security is weak, our country is a transshipment point for harmful drugs, and a hotbed for money laundering and human trafficking. These international crimes are hurting the image and reputation of our country”, he said..

Alternatively he boasted that under his leadership the drug trafficking in Liberia, and the use of Liberia as a transshipment point for drugs, will end and that additionally, he will provide rehabilitation, job training, prison reforms, and reintegration opportunities for Liberians, and  will restore the country’s reputation in the world by tackling and ending money laundering and human trafficking.

Another area that got knocks from Mr. Cummings is the energy sector where he said that despite inheriting an 88 Megawatts Mount Coffee Hydro, a 38 Megawatts Bushrod Power Plant, and the regional project to supply electricity to Ivory Coast, Liberia, Sierra Leone, and Guinea (CLSG), in addition to distribution of electricity to communities funded by donors, electricity services are poor, extension and distribution to needed communities and households are frustratingly slow, and completion of the projects are delayed due to incompetence of the government to honor its share of the commitment, such as resolving resettlement action payments for those in the project affected areas.

“While we welcome the decision by the electricity regulator to reduce prices, that decision is meaningless without increasing access of stable electricity to more households, residents and businesses. Generated electricity is sitting at substations in Buchanan, in Mount Coffee, in Yekepa, and in Mano River, none of which is being distributed because this government is unable to negotiate commercial agreements with the suppliers in Ivory Coast. The CLSG is using Liberia to supply Sierra Leone and Guinea with no benefit to Liberia”, he said.

An indication that the ANC political leader did not see anything positive done during the period under review popped up in his statement when he tore to pieces the good narratives the government has been showering on its signature project, road connectivity and construction of housing units for the poor and submitted that almost everything done in the sector was to siphon funds through over inflating various costs associated with the projects:

“We would have congratulated the President and his government for the roads and houses he pointed to in his address on Monday, until it has been realized that some, if not all of these projects, are also fronts to steal state funds and launder money through numerous no-bid contracts, opaque processes and inflated costing. For example, the Popo Beach Project was first estimated at US$800,000 to build 50 two-bedroom units, or USD16, 000 per unit. Now, the government is saying the project will cost US$3 Million to build 89 units or US$33,700 per unit. The Liberia Agency for Community Empowerment (LACE) is run by President Weah’s crony, and its budget has been increased by US$10 Million. This is shameful. The stealing is disgraceful”, he said.

Mr. Cummings also touched on the state of democracy under review and noted that democracy is under stress and threats, accusing the President of undermining the rule of law and rollback good governance practices. He said political interference and executive overreach in the justice system continued beginning with the politically-motivated impeachment of Justice Kabineh Ja’neh sometime ago and including the political persecution of formidable opposition leaders on trumped up and false charges.

He said Peaceful protests and assemblies are being teargassed resulting to violence, arrests and wounding of peaceful citizens. “President Weah and his administration are yet to realize that peaceful assemblies are inherent guarantees and ingredients for functional democracies while judicial independence is indispensable to the consolidation of democracy and growth of the economy”, he said.

“The same is also true about corruption, which has gotten worse under President Weah. Nearly every month a new corruption scandal is uncovered. Just days before the President’s address, we learned that USD14 million which was meant for rice importation subsidy was stolen. Last month corruption allegedly occurred at the National Elections Commission. Corruption has been in the driving seat of this presidency from the beginning killing our country and undermining the wellbeing of our people”, he said.

He then challenged the President to lead by good example against corruption by publicly declaring his assets and encouraging his officials to do the same. He vowed to set an example to fight corruption if he becomes President of Liberia. “Make no mistake about this: As President, I will publicly declare my assets year on year, and will instruct the forensic audit of all expenditures of the current Liberian government, and wherever it is determined that those with fiduciary responsibility turned a blind eye to their duties and or facilitated the conversion of public funds to private use, such individuals will face the full weight of the law regardless of who you are. We have to get serious about stopping the stealing”, he said.

While mentioning about the ensuing 2023 Presidential and Legislative election and what it means to the future of the country, Mr. Cummings did not mince words to express his disappointment in what is happening within the opposition bloc, the Collaborating Political Parties (CPP) which he noted would have been a hope for the collective resolve of the Liberian people to usher in a change but may not happen again.

“Despite our best efforts, it has to be admitted that as currently constituted, the CPP may not make it to 2023. But you, the Liberian people, collectively will make it to 2023. The CPP may have been your preferred vehicle for change but the need to change ought not to end because the preferred vehicle broke down along the way. Only the failed leadership of President Weah will benefit if we give up on the need to change the direction of our country. We must never give up – we must never lose hope!” he said.

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